Hauling sheetgoods/lumber with a small car

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Forum topic by Knekkebjoern posted 09-16-2008 06:43 PM 12776 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 5257 days

09-16-2008 06:43 PM

Topic tags/keywords: car hauling question

I am the owner of a 2001 VW Jetta, a model not known for it’s hauling capacity or spacious cargo room. I am wondering how other small-car owners manage to haul around all the raw materials… should I look into installing a roof rack? What’s recommended?

Thank you all.

36 replies so far

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 5033 days

#1 posted 09-16-2008 06:53 PM

If you are wanting to do this on more than rare occasion get a pickup truck, or rent one of the trucks that big boxes offer.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 4847 days

#2 posted 09-16-2008 07:24 PM

I was about to say the same thing sIKE… Hauling sheet goods on a car that small can be dangerous. The odd stick of lumber or two, yeah, put it on your roof with plenty of padding. More than that, buy in bulk and rent a delivery truck from the Borg.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5007 days

#3 posted 09-16-2008 07:31 PM

I’ve got an old civic (12 yrs old) and people are amazed at what I can fit into that car. If I put the back seats flat forward and tilte the front seat all the way back (and remove the headrest) I can fit a 9’ board in there. I was able to fit about 150 board feet of walnut in 8-9’ lengths.

Sheet goods are a little trickier. I’ve seen trailer hitches for cars. I know that serious hauling can strain the engine on a car, but as long as the weight of the trailer + the material doesn’t exceed about 600 lbs, I don’t see how it can be a problem (since that is a reasonable passenger weight). I haven’t done this yet, but thats mostly because I’m not sure how much longer my car will last.

I’d add that converting to a pickup from a small car would cost you WAY more in fuel than the cost of a small trailer. Just my opinion.

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 5040 days

#4 posted 09-16-2008 07:53 PM

I would install a hitch and rent or buy a small trailer. It will be easier to load and unload sheet goods from a trailer than from the top of your Jetta.

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4993 days

#5 posted 09-16-2008 08:21 PM

I don’t know what you could do to solve your problem, but I do know what NOT to do…

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 4847 days

#6 posted 09-16-2008 08:38 PM

Hokie, that depends on the size of the pickup truck, the little toy sized ones will haul hobbyist or light contractor sized loads nicely and won’t gulp too much fuel. Much depends of course on whether or not the vehicle must also serve as a commuting or other high use vehicle.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5007 days

#7 posted 09-16-2008 09:25 PM

I agree Derek. I’m assuming that if he is asking this question, he’s not producing the volumes that would warrant purchasing a truck, and therefore needs another daily driver.

If I could have a 3rd car, it would be an old pickup. I had an explorer as a 3rd car, but driving it 600 miles in 2 yrs didn’t warrant the cost to maintain/insure it, so it was sold.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 5050 days

#8 posted 09-17-2008 05:55 AM

While I do have access to a truck on occasion (nice neighbor), I use my car for 90% of my hauling. Roof racks are the way to go. If I remember right, your car has the attach points on the roof for a VW rack system. I have a BMW 330 and with the roof bars, I can haul plywood sheets (ripped to 2×8) and planks. I have had rather sizable loads (roof bars are rated for 300 lbs) and I take the back roads back to my shop to keep the speeds slow.

Another option, you could get a “Hidden Hitch” installed on your car (like they do in Europe) and get yourself a small (even foldable) trailer to shlep your materials and projects around.

Good luck…


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 4834 days

#9 posted 09-17-2008 07:51 AM

I learned this trick from my friends at REI. They stick one of those foam sleeping pads on top of their cars and tie down surfboards and kayaks. It works pretty well. I use it sometimes on my Civic when I’m hauling lumber. I am careful when I’m on the freeway and I don’t carry sheet goods that way unless I can get back without taking the freeway.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5007 days

#10 posted 09-17-2008 03:23 PM

That “hidden hitch” idea looks like a real winner. Looks to cost under $200 as well. Add in a little more for the trailer and you are well on your way.

View ramon68's profile


21 posts in 5009 days

#11 posted 09-18-2008 11:44 PM

I put a Thule roof rack on my 98 Jetta and I haul 4×8’ plywood sheets and lumber that way. If your rear seat folds down you can also haul lumber that way loading from the trunk.

View webbrowan's profile


10 posts in 2151 days

#12 posted 01-27-2016 05:54 AM

I would also first try stuffing those woods through the trunk across the knocked-down rear seats to the front passenger’s. If that won’t provide enough room or is too much of a hassle, then I would consider a hitch as opposed to a roof rack. This is because of the lesser damage a back hitch would do in comparison against the impact on the roof of your car regardless of the weight.

-- Rowan,

View BurlyBob's profile


9392 posts in 3545 days

#13 posted 01-27-2016 06:09 AM

Go get one of those cheap little trailers at Harbor Freight. Then start saving up for a pickup.

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 2510 days

#14 posted 01-27-2016 11:20 AM

As a teen I worked at a lumber yard and saw it all.

I have seen cars sling 20’ lengths of PVC under the car.

But the one that fits this conversation and really sticks out in my mind AS A DONT DO THIS was when I saw a Ford Fiesta tie—with that cheap twine they give you at the lumber yard—13 sheets of 3/4 PT ply on the top of the car. I dont know how far they got. I would never do this. Rough est is that was 1000 lbs on the roof.

Dont do this. Please. Rent a truck. Get a friend with a truck.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View ScottM's profile


756 posts in 3426 days

#15 posted 01-27-2016 01:12 PM

Get a hitch from and a utility trailer. Most towns have a place that makes their own trailers. I only have a Camry and that’s how I move things. I know it’s a little bigger but I have the same issues when it comes to plywood and lots of lumber that won’t fit with the backseat laid down. The hitches are designed so you can install them yourself. They also have wiring kits for the lights. The hitch and trailer may run you ~1k but that’s a LOT cheaper than a new pickup!

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